About the 2020 Census

Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates a count of the population to apportion seats in the House of Representatives.  The next Census Day will be April 1, 2020.  It will be the 24th decennial census of the nation and one of the most challenging.

In particular, a last-minute citizenship question was inserted into the 2020 Census in the name of enforcing Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act two years before the Census Day.  This webpage provides a chronological description of the key events and developments leading into the 2020 Census.


Chronological events

DateMilestone EventsDescription
2018/05/31New York Times: Lawsuit Says Citizenship Question on Census Targets Minorities for Political Gain“A decision by the Trump administration to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census discriminates against ethnic minorities for political gain, violating the Constitution, argues a federal lawsuit brought Thursday on behalf of several groups representing minorities.”
2018/05/24Yahoo News: Republicans block deeper probe into census citizenship questionEfforts to acquire DOJ documentation of how it decided on the citizenship question failed in Congress
2018/05/23Union of Concerned Scientists: Testimony Reveals the Real Controversy over Census Data and Voting Rights“We have a mutual obligation to protect the scientific integrity of the Census.”
2018/05/23The Hill: Dems question whether administration broke law with citizenship question on censusReference to The Paper Reduction Act
2018/05/18Federal Times: DOJ is fighting challenges to a citizenship question on the 2020 CensusJustification to enforce the Voting Rights Act
2018/05/18U.S. House of Representatives: PROGRESS ON THE 2020 CENSUS – CONTINUEDFull House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
2018/05/17NPR: The Complicated History Of The U.S. Census Asking About CitizenshipLawmakers are set to question the Justice Department Friday about why it requested the 2020 census to ask about citizenship. The history of using the U.S. census to ask about citizenship has many twists and turns.
2018/05/15Federal Times: Trump administration downplays concerns over census question“People do not need to worry that their privacy will be abused by the census,” he said.
2018/05/15Science Magazine: More money, more worries: 2020 census plans continue to generate controversy“A trio of events last week on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., left advocates for the 2020 U.S. census both heartened and concerned.”
2018/05/14Politico: Wilbur Ross: ‘I don’t think the sky will fall’ with census citizenship question“We’re also putting the citizenship question last so that someone who, for whatever reason, feels uncomfortable with that question, at least they can deal easily with the questions with which they are not uncomfortable,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.
2018/05/14Government Executive: Commerce Secretary Lauds Civil Servants for Working Weekends Despite ‘Trapezoid Pay Structure’Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gave a speech at the National Press Club.
2018/05/13Voice of America: Possible US Citizenship Question Raising ConcernsMas Yamashita does not remember when he and his family left their small home in Oakland, California. But he does remember where they went: the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California. During World War II, thousands of Japanese-Americans were held there while a more permanent center was built.
2018/05/11National Public Radio: Many Noncitizens Plan To Avoid The 2020 Census, Test Run Indicates“The U.S. government is conducting a test run of the 2020 census in Rhode Island’s Providence County, where many noncitizens living in Central Falls, R.I., say they’re planning to avoid participating in the national head count.”
2018/05/08PBS: House oversight panel to subpoena Trump appointee over citizenship question on 2020 CensusThe House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Republican chairman has agreed to subpoena one of President Donald Trump’s appointees at the Justice Department concerning the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census.
2018/05/08U.S. House of Representatives: PROGRESS REPORT ON THE 2020 CENSUSFull House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
2018/05/01Asian Fortune: Census, Immigration, Voting Rights Raised at AAAJ National ConferenceThe biggest Asian American national conference on civil and social justice took place at the nation’s capital recently. It ended with calls for stepped-up efforts on top concerns: the citizenship question in the 2020 Census, immigration, voting rights and the 2018 midterm elections, and health care.
2018/04/24NPR: Democrats Push For Internal Documents On 2020 Census Citizenship QuestionThe House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings seen here in 2017, co-signed a letter requesting a subpoena for documents about the 2020 census citizenship question from the Census Bureau and Commerce Department, which oversees the census.
2018/04/23American Enterprise Institute: Making the 2020 census succeedOn Monday at AEI, a panel of distinguished experts gathered to discuss the importance of the 2020 US census.
2018/04/21Washington Post: Will courts let the Trump administration put a citizenship question on the census?When it comes to divisive national controversies, the U.S. census isn’t often high on the list of topics that inspire intense political debate. But when the Department of Commerce announced plans to add a question to the 2020 Census asking respondents whether they are citizens of the United States, the proposal was immediately met with backlash.
2018/04/19Jewish News: Everyone CountsThe 2020 census participation and the accuracy of its data are in peril.
2018/04/19NPR: Skipping The 2020 Census Citizenship Question? You’ll Still Be CountedIncomplete questionnaires for the 2020 census, including those that leave the controversial citizenship question unanswered, will still be included in the upcoming U.S. headcount, the Census Bureau’s top official confirmed Wednesday to lawmakers.
2018/04/18U.S. House of Representatives: FY 2019 Budget Hearing – Bureau of the Census Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
2018/04/18USA Today: Census officials urging people to fill out the survey even with citizenship questionCensus officials said Wednesday even if respondents don’t answer the question about citizenship on the 2020 Census their survey will still be counted, but they urged people to fill out the form completely.
2018/04/17NBC News: Trump wants to ask about citizenship on the census. Here’s why the U.S. stopped in 1960.Questions 13 and 14 on the 1950 U.S. census asked, “What state (or foreign country) was he born in?” and “If foreign-born — is he naturalized?”
2013/04/13Wall Street Journal: Citizenship Question Rankles in a Trial Run of 2020 CensusLocal officials in Rhode Island worry state’s large Latino population may be less willing to participate
2018/04/13Science Magazine report: Trump officials claim they can avoid 2020 census problems caused by controversial citizenship question. Experts are very skepticalReport on expert opinions on impact of citizenship question especially on the limitations of administrative records.
2018/04/12For a thorough summary of the the current debate about the citizenship question on the #census2020, pulling together many pieces, see this piece by Jeremy WuAmerican Statistical Association Science Policy tweet
2018/04/12The Leadership Conference: Over 300 Civil Rights, Faith, and Labor Leaders Demand Oversight on Census Citizenship QuestionOver 300 civil rights, faith, and labor groups are calling on Congress to hold oversight hearings on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to include a new citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
2018/04/11FCW: Lawmakers hear from Census officials on citizenship questionQuestions surrounding the Commerce Department’s decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census continue to linger following a closed congressional briefing.
2018/04/09Personal LinkedIn blog: The Citizenship Question in the 2020 Census: Protecting Civil Rights or Pretext to Shift Political Power?A comprehensive description of the historical context, an overview of the standard principles and practices for conducting the decennial census, a summary assessment of the Commerce Secretary’s justification and the opposing views, and a personal view of how the controversy may be resolved.
2018/03/29Census Bureau Press Release CB18-55: Census Bureau Submits Planned Questions for 2020 Census to CongressCensus Bureau announces questions for the 2020 Census
2018/03/26Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross decision memorandum: Reinstatement of a Citizenship Question on the 2020 Decennial Census Questionnaire8-page memorandum to justify the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census
2017/12/12Arthur E. Gary, General Counsel at Justice Management Division of the Department of Justice letter to the Census Bureau: Request To Reinstate Citizenship Question On 2020 Census QuestionnaireRequest from the Department of Justice to “reinstate” the citizenship question in the 2020 Census
2017/03Census Bureau report: Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey: Federal Legislative and Program UsesReport to Congress is required three years in advance of the Census Day